Read Micah 7:14-20
Micah was a prophet who rebuked Gods people for their idolatry, dishonesty, mistreatment of the poor, and corruption. Micah also prophesied that the Messiah would be worn in Bethlehem.
In this short book he portrays God in two contrasting ways:
- the angry judge: who is justified in condemning Israel and pronouncing judgment on them for their sinfulness, rebellions, taking the land from the poor, dishonesty, being violent, deceptive, and unjust God opposes the wicked. God cares about justice.
- a caring shepherd: God as the One who gathers all of the survivors of Israel after captivity and brings them together to care for them as a shepherd does his flock.
I think we can understand the image of a judge, but few of us have an understanding of the depth of meaning and imagery when God characterizes Himself as a shepherd.
The Hebrew people would understand this imagery. It was a common profession. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David…were shepherds. This one word would conjure up rich and meaningful imagery.
- sheep are dumb and often do things that lead to their harm and demise (hmmm… sounds familiar to people!)
- sheep are dependent: unable to care for themselves, helpless and prone to wander- unable to find their way back to the shepherd. (Can you relate?)
The life of a shepherd is 24/7 with his sheep. Their wellbeing is first and foremost in his mind and the focus of all his actions. The shepherd provides nourishment, comfort, safety, and provision for his sheep. Without their shepherd, the sheep are lost.
God is both just and merciful.
After going back and forth between these two images of God, the book of Micah ends with “who is a God like you? NO One!
God’s countenance towards us is one of hesed! (see day 15 of the Lenten Journey for a greater understanding of God’s countenance. )
- hesed is rich Hebrew word for which there is no exact English equivalent.
I LOVE this word…
- hesed has been translated as: mercy, loving kindness, unswerving loyalty, steadfast love, faithful covenant, redemptive love in action, persistent unconditional tenderness, kindness and compassion,
- hesed is a covenantal and relational word: it is an unbreakable committed love that nothing can change, extinguish, alter. Covenants involve two parties. We are bound up in God’s hesed and we experience it in our relationship with Him. We cannot damage, change or escape God’s hesed for us.
I LOVE this word – as I have done plenty that would damage my relationship with God, would be worthy of judgment and condemnation – reasonable cause and justification for severing the relationship. But God doesn’t!
Who is like our God? No One!
- Hesed is the reason God does not leave us! He does not stay angry with us forever, but delights in showing us mercy, in having an intimate relationship with us, based on His unswerving, covenant love.
- We can’t earn God’s hesed. It is a free gift, we can receive or reject. But it will not change.
- We don’t deserve God’s hesed, yet He gives it anyway… and longs for us to receive it!
Who is like our God? No one!
- He sees the depth of our wickedness, rebellion, sin, selfishness – He doesn’t pretend it doesn’t exist. We don’t have to hide our ugly self and secrets from God.
- He sees our sin… He knows us intimately and responds with naming our sin, taking it upon Himself on Calvary and hurling it away, paid for… Jesus took the condemnation and judgment we deserve upon Himself. We are forgiven, redeemed – because of God’s hesed for us.
God’s face is turned toward YOU! He loves YOU unswervingly; He delights in YOU! and because of this truth, we can rest.
- hesed is a covenant word, unbreakable and relational… and calls us to love Him with the same commitment and unswerving devotion and loyalty.
Then because we are loved by God in this way, we are commanded to love others and treat offer them the hesed we have received from Him.
I LOVE this word… so much that I have it tattooed on my wrist so that I see it every day and am reminded of God’s hesed for me!
- hesed… gives me rest, confidence, freedom to BE…
- …to try, to mess up, to falter, to hide in fear because courage has escaped me, to sit at the edge of choice and finally throw my heart over the line and chose to act in response to this inexplicable inexpressible hesed that covers, carries and envelopes me as His beloved daughter!
What images do you have of God? Is He more a judge or a shepherd?
Do you experience His Hesed for you?
How does this devotional and word hesed change, expand or cement your view of God and his heart toward you?
How does the reality of God’s hesed for you affect you and the way you live?
articles on the difficulty of translating hesed:
Other Scripture verses containing hesed: (there are 247 occurrences)
Genesis 19:19, 20:13, 24:27, 32:10, 39:21, 40:14, 47:29
Exodus 15:13, 20:6, 34:7,
Deuteronomy 5:10, 7:9, 7:12
Joshua 2:12, 2:24
Ruth 1:8, 2:20, 3:10
1 Samuel 15:6, 20:8, 20:14-15
2 Samuel 2:5-6, 3:8, 7:15, 9:1,3 & 7, 22:51
1 Kings 3:6, 8:23
1 Chronicles 16:34, 41, 17:13
2 Chronicles 5:13, 6:14, 6:42, 7:3, 6, 20:21
Ezra 3:11, 7:8, 9:9
Nehemiah 9:32, 13:14, 22
Psalm 5:7,6:4, 13:5, 17:7, 21:7, 23:6, 25:6, 26:3, 31:16, 32:10, 33:18, 36:10, 40:10-11, 52:8 , 57:10, 69:16, 85:7, 86:5,13 & 15, 89:24, 98:3, 103:4, 11, 106:1, 107:1, 8,15,21,31,43, 109:26, 118:1-4, 29, 130:7, 136:1-26, 144:2,
… a partial list, but a place to begin learning about this word & concept of hesed.
Daily Lectionary Readings:
Micah 7:14-15, 18-20; Psalm 103:1-4, 9-12; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
If you want to read through the New Testament during Lent (about ½ hour a day)
Read on Day 18: John 6-9